At first glance, Ridgewood High School exudes competitiveness, largely in relation to academics or athletics. Morning announcements are congested with sports accomplishments and successful athletes are widely praised, often receiving college scholarships or awards. Yet under its competitive surface, the school is filled with incredibly talented artists and musicians that lack appreciation. The Carroll Art Gallery is overlooked and orchestra and band concerts seem vacant in comparison to sports events. Many young artists and their work are neglected.
Advocating for much-needed art appreciation, the ARTBeat committee, led by Sophia Swanson and co-leader Jack Shigeta (‘19), held their most recent event in the campus center on March 11th. Titled Sublime, the event attracted students, teachers, and families eager to view artwork, listen to live music, and watch student-made films.
ARTBeat has previously held multiple successful events, including ARTBeat 2017 and Fall Fusion. Mainly revolving around music, these events consisted of live performances by student groups such as Rachel and Sky, Kate and Co., Take 4, and Havana Affair. Sublime had an art based atmosphere, displaying the awe-inspiring artwork done by talented students, while also including a coffee-shop inspired musical performance by Griffin Fink (‘18) and Emily Ertle (‘20).
A student-made film of ARTBeat 2017 performances was projected on one side of the room, while members of the committee held a homemade crêpe sale to the other side. The small, decorated space felt larger as people gathered to admire the creatively displayed artwork strung across the room and propped up on podiums and easels. Anticipation for springtime and warmer weather radiated due to the scattered and vibrant cherry blossom tree that grew with each paper flower made by young and aspiring artists. Sophia chimed in, “[we] wanted visitors to feel like they had contributed to the event…people were free to design their own blossom and pin it to the wall, and the end product was truly beautiful.” The colorful tree stands in the Campus Center, still visible to all students. Sublime is a fitting appellation.
RHS students attended the event with family and friends, either to support the art community or just to socialize and have an entertaining and lively art-filled day. Claudia Ricatto, an RHS junior who dropped into the gallery, stated: “I think that everyone can benefit from appreciating and going to art events, so we should get everyone to go to ARTBeat… they’re really cool and they have a big impact on people’s lives.” With all of the competition at RHS, the arts program stands as a highly influential and underappreciated aspect of the community. Although small, the art program provides an outlet for creative students and gives people the opportunity to share their voice in a way other than words.
What is the goal of ARTBeat? As stated by Jack Shigeta, “The goal of ARTBeat is to create events that can showcase the talents of RHS artists and musicians… over the past two years we have created several events run by Sophia, myself, and the rest of the ARTBeat committee. Each event takes months of planning, but the process is rewarding and it’s exciting to see the results come together.” Sophia added on, saying, “ARTBeat also aims to share the creativity within the school with the rest of our community. Student artists and musicians unfortunately have few opportunities to broadcast their hard work to a broad audience (outside of family and close friends), so we hope to draw a wide variety of Ridgewood residents to our events… the part of ARTBeat that I love most is the collaboration between different forms of expression, a theme which we try to emphasize with every event.” Sharing this community and helping it grow is the purpose of ARTBeat, and with each new event, RHS can work its way to being a school that really appreciates the impact that art and expression can have.
“The ARTBeat committee unanimously agreed that Sublime was a big success,” says Jack, as the crowded event received high praise from all who attended. Everyone on the committee is incredibly proud of the influence that has been made from our efforts. We embrace differences and encourage wavering from the school’s stereotypes. Sophia said, “Ridgewood High School is home to such a spectrum of people, and I really think that the Ridgewood ARTBeat Committee reflects that. We welcome everyone to join us at meetings, regardless of whether an individual has taken art or music classes at the high school. Our diversity is what makes us strong, and I hope that sends a positive message to the rest of the student body. With varied perspectives, a little inspiration, a strong team, and a ton of hard work, pulling off our events suddenly becomes possible.”
The ARTBeat committee looks forward to its main event this year: Ridgewood ARTBeat 2018 held in the Bandshell on Vet’s Field on Tuesday, June 12th from 8:30 to 9:45 PM. We will continue to put all of our efforts into abolishing barriers and expectations and trying to change the way this school runs with the power of art. We hope to attract an even larger audience at our next event with live musical performances and student artwork, and all optimism is put towards the growth and blossom of our art community.
Graphic: Evie Cullen